Nine residents have thrown their hat into the ring to run for three seats on the Bel Air Board of Town Commissioners, an unusually high number, according to town election officials.
Michael Krantz, the director of administration and town clerk for Bel Air, said it was the largest field of candidates for a town election since he began working there in 2013.
Among the crowded field, only one — Philip Einhorn — is an incumbent seeking re-election, although there are some familiar faces. Kevin Bianca, Daniel Gray, Erin Hughes, Donna Kahoe, Bill Kelly, Michael Kutcher, James Lockard and James “Capt’n Jim” McMahan round out the field.
Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 5. Voters may cast ballots for up to three candidates at the Bel Air Town Hall, 39 N. Hickory Ave. Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.
Bel Air town commissioners are elected to four-year terms. Town elections are nonpartisan.
Amy Chmielewski and Patrick Richards were elected in 2017, beating Kutcher and Christopher Jordan for the two seats. In 2015, five candidates ran for three seats, with Susan Burdette, Einhorn and Brendan Hopkins beating Diane Simmons and Hunter Smith.
Voters must reside within the town limits of Bel Air and must be a registered voter with the State of Maryland. The voter registration deadline is Oct. 15 at 5 p.m. Applications for absentee ballots are available at the Harford County Board of Elections, 133 Industry Lane, in Forest Hill. For more information about voter registration or absentee ballots, visit www.harfordvotes.info or call 410-638-3565.
The Aegis asked all nine candidates to share a little about their background and why they are running for a seat on the Bel Air Board of Town Commissioners.
Bianca, who has served on the Town of Bel Air’s Traffic Safety Task Force and as a member of the town police department’s Citizens Advisory Board, says Bel Air “is ready for the next generation of leadership, and we need a forward thinker who is ready to work for the future of our Town.”
Currently the director of the Circuit Court of Harford County’s Community Work Service Program and previously the community services coordinator for the county’s detention center, Bianca said he’s spent his whole career in public service. Bianca, who has lived in the Town of Bel Air for four years, said he’s running for commissioner with an eye on the future.
“As the father of a young child, it’s important to me that we think about how decisions made today can be made not only in the interests of the here and now, but for the interest of the future generations of Bel Air,” he said.
“These elections matter, and the citizens of the Town deserve a Commissioner who will work hard every day to make sure Bel Air’s future is as great as its past.”
Einhorn is seeking re-election to the board of commissioners “because I love this town and have the many hours necessary to do the job properly ... I want to help Bel Air remain one of the best towns in our country.”
A U.S. Navy veteran and a retired sales rep for an insurance company, Einhorn first moved to Bel Air in 1962, later leaving because of his job, before returning in 2005.
He ran for commissioner four years ago because he wanted to work with his friend, Town Administrator Jesse Bane, he said.
“Shortly after my election I heard that we had some older police cars for a local auction. I attended and was shocked to see these vehicles go for as little as $2,000,” he said. Later at a Maryland Municipal League event in Ocean City, Einhorn said he met a man who had a website auctioning government vehicles. He took the idea to Bane and Bel Air joined the website to sell its vehicles and other property. “This has saved our town many thousands of dollars already,” he said.
Gray is a lifelong resident of the Town of Bel Air who said he has no previous political experience, but has considered running for many years.
For the past 25 years, Gray said he has worked for various medical device companies with the focus being on improving patient’s quality of life through advanced medical therapy and technology.
A father of four, Gray said he has also been actively involved in the community over the last 15 years through Harford County recreation programs and Harford County School System. He was also an active member of the the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company for nine years.
“My platform is based on the 3 Ls,” Gray said. “Listening to you, Learning from you, and Leading with your support. Community involvement is crucial to the success of the Town of Bel Air and I look forward to hearing from all of you!”
Hughes said she is trying to use her campaign to help people better understand how Bel Air’s town government works, in hopes that “if people better understand how their local government functions and realize they, as residents, have opportunities to get involved, that they will do so and become more active members of their community.”
A computer engineer/software developer for a contractor at Aberdeen Proving Ground following a career as a registered nurse, Hughes said she has lived in the greater Bel Air area for more than 35 years, and within town limits for about two and a half years.
During the past two years, she’s been an active volunteer for the Bel Air Downtown Alliance and said “I love the way Bel Air’s downtown area and the surrounding neighborhoods have developed into such a fun and vibrant place to live and work.”
“My goal as a candidate for Bel Air Town Commissioner is to work with town residents and local business owners to ensure a bright and healthy future for our beautiful town,” she said. “I also hope to continue to improve pedestrian/bike safety within the town and encourage environmental sustainability.”
Recently retired after a 23-year career as a legal analyst with T. Rowe Price, Kahoe said she’s running for town commissioner because she wants “to see the Bel Air community continue to grow in a a positive way.”
Kahoe, a lifelong resident of Harford County and 20-year resident of the Bel Air, is a former member of the county’s Democratic Central Committee, and has been involved with several groups including the Harford County Women’s Giving Circle, Greater Bel Air Community Foundation, Habitat for Humanity and a former board member of the Liriodendron Foundation.
If elected, Kahoe said she wants to specifically focus on improving pedestrian safety “by expanding the walkability and safety of downtown for residents and visitors of all ages.”
She also wants to work on “marketing our Main Street District to maximize our town venues, specifically the Armory, Rockfield, etc. which are fabulous resources for events and promoting local merchants.”
Kelly said he’s running for town commissioner to “be a strong voice supporting our town including its residents and business partners.”
A 15-year resident of Bel Air, Kelly is a certified public accountant and certified financial planner who, along with his partner and nephew, Bryan Kelly, co-founded The Kelly Group, located on Gordon Street in downtown.
As a member of the Bel Air Economic and Community Development Commission, the Bel Air Traffic Safety Task Force and treasurer for the Greater Bel Air Community Foundation, which has supported capital improvement projects in the community, Kelly said he’s stayed current with the town’s “forward progress as an active participant,” and, if elected, would “work hard to give back to our community.”
“I bring a strong fiscal and financial perspective from my years in finance and business,” Kelly said. “I am pleased with our town’s growth and direction and I want to participate in the development of the positive future growth of our town. I believe I can be an effective member of the Bel Air town commissioners.”
Kutcher, a 30-year resident of the town, said he’s seen a lot of change in that time, “some for the better, some for the worse, and some just change.”
He’s running for town commissioner to address “critical issues” facing the town, such as “increased crime, paralyzing traffic, vacant buildings and over development.”
“I chose Bel Air 30 years ago for its small town charm and appeal to raise my family,” said Kutcher, a software engineer at Digital Innovation, Inc., where he has worked for 27 years.
“Now that the kids have grown and are out on their own, I am once again being drawn to serve,” he said, referencing a stint in the Maryland Army National Guard before he was medically discharged. “I would like to help preserve Bel Air for generations to come.”
Lockard, who has been a lifelong resident of Bel Air and recently retired from the town’s police force after a 26-year career, said he’s running for commissioner to “continue my service to this town, its employees, residents and visitors.”
His years working for the town give him experience navigating the landscape and politics of Bel Air, he said, and “grant me a unique skillset and knowledge from others.”
“It is important that those who hold elected positions in this Town realize that we must acknowledge and reward the hard work and dedication our employees, volunteers and those we serve,” Lockard, who now works in enterprise security for M&T Bank and teaches classes in police administration and forensic photography at the University of Baltimore.
“I believe in looking at all possibilities to seek funding, staff and other resources,” he said. “If our people are our most important resource than we must attract and retain only the most qualified and dedicated of the applicants.”
James “Capt’n Jim” McMahan
McMahon is no stranger to Harford County or Bel Air politics, having previously served as a town commissioner from 2002 to 2006, then as a member of the Harford County Council. “Historical knowledge is extremely important to any town government and I am the only candidate who brings that knowledge to the table,” he said.
McMahon has been a part of numerous organizations over the years, including the Bel Air Chamber of Commerce, co-founder of the Fourth of July Committee and of the Bel Air Community Band, and most recently reorganized the county’s commissioner on veterans affairs at the request of the county executive.
The lifelong resident, former police officer and veteran, said, if elected, he wants to follow through on positive program initiated by current Bel Air Mayor Susan Burdette. “There’s an old saying, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ Bel Air is not broke and I want to make sure it stays in good shape,” McMahan said.
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Town residents “deserve tranquil neighborhoods with traffic calming devices. They must be able to walk safely to our parks, schools and community events,” he said. “We need to fix the deteriorating police offices now. We must support our business community by buying local.”